Vauxhall adds size, space and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive to its soft-road Insignia estate
In 2013, Vauxhall launched its first Insignia Country TourerÂ as a high-riding alternative to cars like Audiâ€™s Allroad. Now thereâ€™s a new Country Tourer,Â built on the improved insignia and powered by either a 172bhp 2.0-litre Turbo D engineÂ or (in December) a new 213bhp, bi-turbo diesel.
Transmission-wise, itâ€™s a six-speed manual or a new eight-speed automatic, linked to an all-wheel-drive system thatâ€™s based on GKNâ€™s Twinster torque-vectoringÂ technology. This system is already used, with slight variations, on the Range Rover Evoque, the Ford Focus RSÂ andÂ Vauxhallâ€™s own Insignia Grand Sport. Two electronic clutches on the Country Tourer’s rear axle allow it to direct torque more to one side than the other.
The Country Tourerâ€™sÂ ride height is 25mm above that of the normal Insignia Sports Tourer estate,Â and Vauxhall has added extra protection on the wheel arches and the underside. Adaptive damping and steering are part of the Country Tourer’s three-mode Flexride chassis setup, which also interacts with the automatic by altering the gear-shifting points.
Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer 2.0 Turbo D 170PS 4×4
Engine:2.0-liter, four-cylinder, turbo diesel
Torque: 295lb ft
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1633kg
Top speed: 135mph
CO2/tax band: 172g/km, 36%
The cabin is welcoming and comfy, with lots of adjustment on both the driverâ€™s seat and the steering wheel. You get more space in the new CT than the old one, thanks in the main to a 92mm increase in the wheelbase. Boot space has increased by 135 litres to 1665 litres, with added flexibility from the 40/20/40 split-foldÂ rear seats with fold-flat backs, plus the capacity to carry another 100kg on the roof rails. Itâ€™s all very easy and drama-free to use.
A knob on the driverâ€™s door lets you select the degree of poweredÂ tailgate opening: off, max, or 75 per cent if youâ€™re in a low-ceilinged environment such as a multi-storey car park. Talking of which, the standard OnStar concierge feature now comes a parking space locator service along with another new feature called Personal Assistant, which helps with hotel bookings.
The 2.0-litre 172bhp diesel engine is powerful and smooth, tugging hard from 2000rpm and providing ample grunt for safe overtakes or serious load-carrying. That and the crisp six-speed manual gearbox adds up to a fun drive. Youâ€™ll struggle to notice the all-wheel drive system working in regular conditions, but you wonâ€™t have any trouble appreciating the agility, smart turn-in and largely roll-free handling.
The merit of the 4WD system becomes much clearer away from metalled roads. Grass isn’t the grippiest of surfaces, but even under strong acceleration the Country Tourer proved to be a faithful and reassuring companion. The 25mm ride height boost opens up a surprisingly wide selection of approachÂ and departure angles so you can indeed â€˜off-roadâ€™ to a reasonable, modern lifestyle-friendly extent.
Flexrideâ€™s SportÂ setting beefs up the damping, weights up the steering and sensitises the accelerator, with more torque being directed to the back end by the Twinster system to inject a pleasing sensation of rear-wheel-drive. For a softer all-round drive, pick Tour. In between those two you have the Standard setting. Our preference was for SportÂ with the damping on its default setting.
The newÂ Country Tourer represents a big jump ahead on the old model in the key areas of size, mechanicals and kit. Its Twinster system promises worthwhile advances in both safety and traction in bad conditions.
Better yet, it undercuts all the opposition on price. The Â£27,235 price tag for the model we tested is smaller than those for Audiâ€™s A4 Allroad,Â Volkswagenâ€™s Passat AlltrackÂ or Volvoâ€™s V90 Cross Country â€“Â and model prices for FWD Country Tourers start even lower, at Â£25,635.
We can easily see this roomy and useful car appealing to country motorists for whom additional ground clearance andÂ some off-road ability could make all the difference in awkward situations. Vauxhallâ€™s sales ambition for it amounts to just 500 cars, but they may end up being surprised.